Land O'Lakes sweeps SAC swim championships
LAND O’LAKES — Let the swan song begin for longtime Land O’Lakes swim coach Robin Hilgenberg. The Gators took the first steps in making her final postseason memorable by sweeping the Sunshine Athletic Conference championships Saturday.
The Land O’Lakes girls won a seventh straight SAC title at the New Port Richey Aquatics Center, and the boys extended their conference record to 15 consecutive championships. The boys and girls teams combined to win 13 of the 24 events, breaking five conference records in the process.
“It means a lot, winning the conference titles in my last season,” said Hilgenberg, who plans to step down after a 14-year run at the end of this season. “I’ve cried all week, but I’m excited because I’m still going to be coaching club.”
Hilgenberg, a longtime coach with Florida Elite, formerly the Land O’ Lakes Lightning, coached many of the high school swimmers she has now at younger levels.
The Land O’Lakes girls tallied 498 points with Sunlake finishing second at 403 and Wiregrass Ranch coming in third at 305. The Gators were led by standout freshman Taylor Ward, who set individual marks in the 200-yard freestyle (one minute, 54.9 seconds) and 500 free (5:03.15), and was part of two record-breaking relay teams: 200 medley (1:57.49) with Margarita Czupryn, Ashley Schrader and Romina McCloskey (1:57.49); and the 400 free relay (3:47.32) that included the same foursome.
The fifth Land O’Lakes SAC record came from the boys, who won with a 385 score, well ahead or runnerup Sunlake’s 281 and third-place Wiregrass Ranch’s 268. The Gators’ Zack Davis, Jabari Ramsey, Patrick Frain and Max Pierovich swam the 200 medley relay in 1:44.13.
In all, seven records fell Saturday, including two by Wiregrass Ranch’s Madison Conway, who set new times in the 100 butterfly (57.68) and 100 backstroke (59.09).
“We had a (recent) meet at the state pool in Fort Myers and it got me really excited for the postseason,” said Conway, a senior who also was part of three record-breaking events in last year’s conference meet.
Aside from Conway’s records, she and her sister Lauren teamed with Daniela LaFlamme and Sydney Horn to win the 200 free relay (1:49.01) before Lauren Conway won the 100 breaststroke (1:11.54).
The only other team to win multiple events was the Gulf boys. Manden Smith took firsts in the 50 free (22.24) and 100 back (55.10).
Sunlake and Hudson each had a victory apiece for its girls and boys team. Sunlake’s winners were Kara Wilkins, 200 individual medley (2:12.93); and Austin Abernathy, diving (287.45). Hudson’s Domineeka Luis won in diving (420.65) and Johnathan McDowell was first in the 100 free (50.32).